Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam Under Threat

Hundreds of years of neglect and exposure to the elements has threatened the structural integrity of the Minaret of Jam, one of Afghanistan’s architectural masterpieces, the BBC reports.

Famous for its beautiful brickwork which forms an array of intricate patterns and inscriptions, the 65-meter-tall (213 foot) structure is considered the second tallest brick minaret in the world.

The monument was constructed 800 years ago in 1194. According to Unesco, no substantial restoration has ever been carried out on the monument. Throughout the years, constant exposure to the elements has taken its toll. Locals told the BBC that 20–30 percent of the bricks had fallen off its surface and that the minaret is starting to lean.

The biggest threat to the minaret is the nearby river. According to officials, erosion caused by intense flooding last year severely damaged the base of the structure. Although basic stabilization and a supporting wall has been put in place, extensive restoration is said to be required to secure the foundation.

The site was once a very popular destination for tourists. However, decades of political instability, war, and security threats have made preservation of Afghanistan’s heritage sites very difficult. Few visitors are prepared to risk a trip to Afghanistan, and consequently the money required for maintenance isn’t available.

According to local officials, more flooding could bring down the structure. Cultural activists have now issued a desperate plea to the president of Afghanistan to visit the minaret and to help preserve the site.

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